The Secret Garden movie, released in August 2020, offers colorful landscapes and snapshots from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s original story written in the early 1900s. Many things are changed, including the actual time period, but one difference that stands out is the tree. In the book, its branch breaks off, causing grief and troubles ahead for the family at Misselthwaite Manor. The newest film adaptation portrays the tree as a place of beauty and healing, and it sits near a stream with a swing hanging from its largest branch. While a tree is a setting and not usually a character in a story, its purpose can be for evil or good.
History's first story-conflict began beside a forbidden tree with Eve doubting God’s goodness in the garden. Then the story unfolds for hundreds of years as God faithfully reveals his role as the main character and his plan to rescue his people in the Bible stories that follow. After a while, another tree enters the scene; one used to make the wooden cross where Jesus would redeem the story and bring eternal life to all who trust him.
Trees also make memorable settings or images in stories, such as the willow tree in The Lord of the Rings, and Winnie the Pooh’s home in A.A. Milne’s children’s books. And think of the well-known picture in the Bible where Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to the tiniest mustard seed that grows up into a huge tree (Matthew 13:31 ESV).
Writing Prompt: Find a photo of a tree or choose one from real life, and write a short story with the tree as an important part of the setting. If you want your writing project to hold your own attention and interest, determine a location that intrigues you and place the tree there. Add a character or two and see how the tree inspires your storytelling.